Lisa Parks may not be a senior environmental engineer at General Motors today if not for an afternoon she spent in high school analyzing water quality in the Grand River near her hometown of Grand Ledge, Mich.
The stream monitoring was part of GM GREEN, which stands for Global Rivers Environmental Education Network, a program she said sparked her interest in science. GM GREEN is designed to sharpen problem-solving skills, improve knowledge of science and the environment, and encourage community involvement.
GM is now in its 23rd year of supporting the program, a partnership with the nonprofit organization Earth Force to help youth understand how their actions impact local watersheds. The hands-on learning experience continues to gain traction, and this year marks the first time every GM manufacturing site in the United States will mentor students in their local community on water quality.
“GM GREEN volunteers have shown my students that there are not only careers available in environmental fields, but that science is real life and not just something people talk about in school,” said Yolanda Hover, sixth and seventh grade science teacher at Jackson Middle School in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Last year, GM mentors waded into streams with 9,312 students from nearly 100 schools. GM employees from 41 facilities volunteered in 2011 to help students within their communities analyze water monitoring data, identify a problem and develop a project to solve it.
“We’re dedicated to resource preservation at our facilities and that commitment often extends into the local community,” said Teri Kline, GM’s manager of Environmental, Facility & Materials Policy and long-time GM GREEN program mentor. “Leading companies not only strive to reduce their environmental impact, but teach others to do the same. We supported 379 classrooms in the past year alone, helping mentor the next generation of leaders and engineers.”
By the third decade of supporting GM GREEN, thousands of GM employees have participated as mentors. According to Earth Force surveys:
• 93 percent of GM employees believed the experience was personally fulfilling.
• 87 percent of educators said GM GREEN increased their students’ interest in science.
• Six out of 10 students want to continue working on issues addressed by their project.
Judging by the numbers, GM GREEN is a valuable program for not only the students, but the employees and mentors, as well.
As the program moves ahead, it will only serve to better our commitment to the environment.